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Safe loading and unloading of cattle

In Queensland there have been many incidents where workers have been seriously or fatally injured during the loading or unloading of cattle.

Cattle producers, livestock transport operators and animal handlers can be at risk of serious injury when loading or unloading cattle on properties or at saleyards.

What are the risks?

Cattle may become agitated from increased noise, heat, and light or from unfamiliar surrounds or from low skilled handlers, all of which increase the risk of injury to the people involved.

These risks include being crushed, kicked, trampled or gored and may lead to fractures, dislocations, serious injuries or even fatalities.

People working with cattle whilst loading or unloading are at greater risk of being injured when placing:

  • themselves inside the confines of the loading ramp (either behind or in between the cattle)
  • their limbs through the bars of the ramp to move the cattle either up or down the ramp.

Handlers must anticipate often unpredictable animal behaviour when they are being handled in confined situations and during loading, particularly when loading cattle by ramp. In this instance make sure:

  • the design or construction of the loading ramp is appropriate for the size or the flow of the cattle
  • the slope of the loading ramp is not too steep (The Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association has standard designs of loading ramps)
  • the loading ramp is sheeted (sheeted panels make the cattle focus on the ramp exit and eliminates other distractions, also it prevents legs getting caught)
  • the width of the loading ramps is appropriate to the breed or class of cattle that will be negotiating the ramp
  • the floors are constructed with non-slip material that does not 'resonate' or create undue noise (A catwalk and handrail will assist handlers to move cattle and enhance safety)
  • there is a sliding gate at the top of the ramp that can be safely used to secure animals on the truck once it is loaded
  • workers have been properly trained to perform the task safely
  • minimal stress is placed upon cattle during loading or unloading practices through 'low stress' livestock handling techniques (allowing the working with cattle in all situations in a safe, calm and efficient manner).

Cross-loading cattle

Cross-loading (transferring) cattle between trailers is considered one of the most dangerous activities along the cattle transport supply chain. Cross-loading involves reversing two trucks together, and the drivers climbing up the side of the cattle crate, standing on top of the crate and often inside the crate to move the cattle from one trailer to the next.

What are the risks?

Exposure of drivers to risks associated with:

  • work at heights
  • slips, trips and falls
  • confined spaces (a confined space that exposed the driver to live animals)
  • crushing injuries
  • poor lighting
  • unpredictable livestock.


Eliminate the risk by using a cross-loading module that incorporates a series of elevated platforms, over-trailer walkways and sliding gates/barriers. The module removes the need for the driver to work within, climb or stand on the crate. This decreases the risks of falls, trips, and contact with livestock.

Find out how Frasers Livestock Transport designed the custom built cross-loading module.